Friday, May 21, 2010

In the Interest of Equal Time: Rand Paul is No Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights



I do have something to say on this Rand Paul "revealing who he has always been" moment. But, why write now, when there are folks who are saying it better than I ever could?

And don't ever say that I don't think that Conservatives have something to offer. My enemy is stupidity and demagoguery wherever I may find it. Although I may not agree with every point, what follows is a reasoned, reflective engagement with the relationship between libertarianism and white supremacy that is well worth reading.

From Capital Gains and Games:

Rand Paul is No Barry Goldwater on Civil Rights


Rand Paul, son of legendary libertarian Congressman Ron Paul, for whom I worked in the 1970s, is now the official Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky. Perhaps unfortunately for him, he did not get a great deal of national press scrutiny during his primary campaign because he was an outsider that many in the national press corps thought could not win. Now that he has, they are making up for lost time. And Rand has accommodated them by repeatedly saying that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on libertarian grounds: private businesses should not be forced to serve African Americans if they so choose. Presumably, market pressure will eventually force them to be more accommodating. If it doesn't, then so be it, Rand believes.

Both Rand's supporters and critics point to Senator Barry Goldwater's principled opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, according to Rick Perlstein's excellent book, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act was based entirely on constitutional concerns. He had been told by both William Rehnquist, then a private attorney in Phoenix and later chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Robert Bork, then a professor of constitutional law at Yale, that it was unconstitutional. Bork even sent him a 75-page brief to that effect.

To be sure, the Rehnquist-Bork position was not a lame rationalization for racism. It was rooted in the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 essentially replicated the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which was enacted by a Republican Congress over strenuous Democratic opposition. However, in 1883 the Supreme Court, then it its most libertarian phase, knocked down the 1875 act as well as many other Republican measures passed during Reconstruction designed to aid African Americans. The Court's philosophy in these cases led logically to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which essentially gave constitutional protection to legal segregation enforced by state and local governments throughout the U.S.

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn't have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn't work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

Sadly, it took the Supreme Court more than 50 years after Plessy before it began to undo its mistake in Brown. This led to repeated efforts by the Eisenhower administration to enact civil rights legislation, which was opposed and gutted by Senate Democrats led by Lyndon Johnson. But by 1964, it was clear to Johnson that the tide had turned. The federal courts were moving to dismantle segregation to the extent they could, and the 1963 March on Washington, the murder and beating of civil rights demonstrators in the South and growing awareness of such atrocities changed the political climate and made the Civil Rights Act of 1964 possible--despite the filibuster against it by Senator Robert C. Byrd, who still serves in the Senate today.

If Rand Paul were saying that he agrees with the Goldwater-Rehnquist-Bork view that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court was wrong to subsequently find it constitutional, that would be an eccentric but defensible position. If he were saying that the Civil Rights Act were no longer necessary because of the great strides we have made as a country in eradicating racism, that would also be defensible. But Rand's position is that it was wrong in principle in 1964. There is no other way of interpreting this except as an endorsement of all the things the Civil Rights Act was designed to prohibit, as favoring the status quo throughout the South that would have led to a continuation of segregation and discrimination against African Americans at least for many more years. Undoubtedly, changing mores would have broken down some of this over time, but there is no reason to believe that it would have been quick or that vestiges wouldn't still remain today. Indeed, vestiges remain despite the Civil Rights Act.

I don't believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only--freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists. To defend the rights of racists to discriminate is reprehensible and especially so when it is done by a major party nominee for the U.S. Senate. I believe that Rand should admit that he was wrong as quickly as possible.

Addendum

The gist of the libertarian critique of this post, both here and on other blogs, seems to be that since segregation was enforced by the states it proves nothing about whether a libertarian society would lead to a decline in racism. Fine. But it doesn't address the original point of this post, which relates to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without it, what force was going to make the Southern states drop their racist laws? As I point out, we had an almost 100 year test of whether market/social forces were capable of changing the laws and customs in the Southern states and eliminate segregation. It didn't happen and there's no reason to think it was necessarily ever going to happen if the Southern states were left to their own devices. I believe that federal intervention was critical to eliminate the racist laws of the Southern states that restricted the freedom of African Americans. Restricting the freedom of racists to discriminate seems to be to be a very small price to pay and that on balance CRA greatly expanded aggregate freedom.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Would U.S. History Look Like If It Were Written By Texas and Arizona?

History is one part truth. History is also one part fable. It is a site of political contestation and struggle. As the state of Arizona (with its rules banning “Ethnic Studies”) and the state of Texas (reimaging its U.S. history curriculum to conform with the Tea Party and Christian Nationalist perspective) have both embraced a more “conservative” view of history, it only seems fair and reasonable to take their efforts at face value. Theirs is not an assault on academic freedom. No, it is an effort to diversify and make more inclusive and “American” the curriculum taught to our children.

Many, on both sides of the political divide, have treated these new guidelines with much derision and complaint. I suggest that the best way to understand the teaching of history as imagined by this brave new world is to work through the reality it offers. To that end, I present U.S. history as outlined in the politically correct guidelines offered by Arizona and Texas. Sometimes the old is indeed the new…welcome my friends to Tea Party U.S.A.

The Essential Dates and Events of U.S. History as Approved by the States of Arizona and Texas

1607– Jamestown founded. Capitalism, which can trace its roots to the Bible, is now firmly rooted in the New World.

1660-1800Triangular Atlantic trade continues to bring wealth and prosperity to America while giving opportunities to new immigrants.

1776–War for Independence against the tyrannical, evil British empire. Colonists suffer oppression that is unprecedented in human history. Minutemen singlehandedly defeat the evil British Empire in 1783.

1788–The United States Constitution is signed as a document to stand for all time, inspired by God, and never to be changed.

1803-1848
–America continues to expand westward into empty territories. American settlers make the land bloom with the help of friendly Indian tribes.

1823–America guarantees the freedom of all countries and people in the Western Hemisphere with the adoption of the Monroe Doctrine.

1848–Mexico, in an act of friendship following their humiliation at the Alamo by the great Republic of Texas, gives their territories to the United States.

1860s-1900s–The Gilded Age of prosperity. American capitalism provides opportunities for all people to grow wealthy, secure, and happy. Liberals and Progressives begin working against American freedom and capitalism by forming unions, demanding unfair compensation from their employers, limiting the rights of children to work in factories, and imposing restrictive regulations for the “safety” of employees. Many brave men die fighting Communist influenced unions as they riot in America’s cities.

1861-1865–Civil War fought because of an overreaching, tyrannical federal government and its desire to limit the freedoms of all Americans. 620,000 people die including many brave and noble black Americans who fought on the side of the Confederacy. Northerners and Southerners eventually find common ground through Redemption and move forward as brothers and sisters in the USA.

1865-1870s–Democratic terrorists called the Ku Klux Klan begin a reign of terror in the South until brave Republicans defeat them.

1906
–Using the Antiquities Act, Theodore Roosevelt establishes the National Park System. In one bold stroke Roosevelt establishes Socialist policies that steal land from the American people.

1913–More Socialism and class warfare ushered into the U.S. with the federal income tax system.

1917–America enters and wins World War 1 singlehandedly because the French are cowards.

1929–Great Depression begins. Tens of millions unemployed because of FDR’s failed economic policies. His New Deal introduces the nanny state, prolongs America’s economic collapse, and weakens the economy until Ronald Reagan renews America.

1941–Patriotic Japanese Americans volunteer to place themselves in gated communities so that America will be safe from Imperial Japan.

1941-1945–America enters and wins World War 2 singlehandedly because the French are cowards. Out of necessity, the United States drops atomic bombs on Japan.

1945-1965–A high point in U.S. history, as freedom and prosperity reign over all Americans.

1950–Senator Joseph McCarthy fearlessly highlights how America is infiltrated by communists from Russia and China. Big Hollywood and the liberal establishment are brought to their knees by his brave efforts.

1954–Brown v. Board of Education removes the parental right to send children to the schools of their choice and with the company they desire. A dangerous and unconstitutional era of activist Supreme Court decisions begins.

1955-1968–George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr. lead a Civil Rights Movement to ensure that all Americans are judged by “the content of their character and not the color of their skin.”

1964-Barry Goldwater ignites a revolution in Conservative thought and values that resonates to the 21st century.

1968–The cinematic classic The Green Berets starring John Wayne, America’s greatest actor, debuts.

1971–America largely withdraws from Vietnam on the cusp of victory because it was weakened by The Gays, The Women’s Movement, and “The Counter-culture.” The French are cowards whose failure forced the U.S. to intervene in Indochina.

1973–Roe vs. Wade, the worst legal decision in the history of the Supreme Court is decided.

1974-Phyllis Schlafly, pioneer for the rights of women, takes a stand against evil Leftist feminists who want to ban motherhood, force mothers to work at jobs outside the home, join the military, become lesbians, and receive advanced educations which they do not need.

1974Nixon forced to resign by liberal conspiracy.

1980–Ronald Reagan, America’s greatest president, restores American providence by ushering in a new era of economic prosperity, cutting the federal budget, and corrects the unfair federal tax code in order that the hard work of the richest Americans is justly rewarded.

1989–The Berlin Wall falls. Ronald Reagan wins the Cold War singlehandedly.

1992-2000–Democrat president Bill Clinton in office. His reckless personal behavior and irresponsible foreign policy choices weaken America internationally. The U.S. economy is almost destroyed by his tax policies. His wife Hillary Clinton furthers the march towards Socialism by advocating for free public health care and to destroy the insurance companies that drive us economic growth.

2000–George Bush elected in a landslide.

2001–Terrorists attack America on September 11th. Because of Bill Clinton’s policies, a weakened border, a lax immigration policy, rampant multiculturalism, and the Democrats’ weakening of the military, America is left open to attack.

2003–Dr. King’s vision is finally made real. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court strikes down the reverse discrimination policies of the University of Michigan. Freedom rings across the land.

2003The country of Iraq, a rogue state, part of the Axis of Evil, and led by the dictator Saddam Hussein–a co-conspirator in the 9-11 attacks–is liberated by President George Bush.

2008-Arizona war hero John McCain introduces Sarah Palin to the world.

2008–Barack Obama is elected. America is in a Constitutional crisis as Obama is unable to prove that he is a U.S. citizen.

2008-the present. Brave Americans begin joining Tea Parties and 9-12 freedom groups. Millions of their members march on Washington DC.. Freedom fighter, James David Manning, places Obama on trial in absentia for treason and sedition.

2008Sarah Palin, mother, governor, author, actress, comedienne and role-model begins here meteoric rise to political stardom. She ushers in an era of robust, common sense approaches to political problems tempered by real American values.

2010Barack Obama remains President although his rule is illegitimate. Brave patriots such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh continue to lead the people’s resistance against his tyrannical rule.

2010-Patriotic legislatures in Texas and Arizona lead the battle against racial quotas and ethnocentrism as they draft legislation to defend all of America from an unending and unfettered stream of foreign invaders.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My exchange with a Tea Party wingnut (annotated)



Every once in a while, I engage in the Sisyphean task of arguing with a dimwit over the internet, or as I call it, slapboxing the armless.

The details of the exchange aren’t really that important. All you need to know is that yours truly (GG) responded to the Tea Party Wingnut (TPW) as he waxed idiotic on the topic of Arizona’s recent immigration law.

I find this all hilarious, obviously, but the sobering truth is that this person’s vote counts as much as mine. Moreover, because nuanced thought is kryptonite to the popular corporate media, he’s also more likely than I am to have his political views represented in popular newspapers, magazines, and TV shows.

The most depressing part of all of this is that there are literally millions of people like this guy, and this TPW is probably in the middle of the distribution in terms of intelligence.

Maybe it’s not so funny after all.

Enjoy.


----------------------

TPW: FACE IT OBAMA IS ILLEAGLE,[1] SO HE IS GOING TO DO EVERYTHING IN HIS ILL GOTTEN POWERS TO HURT AMERICA.[2] HIS CRONNIES ARE GOING TO ATTACK THE GOV OF ARIZONA AND PUT PRESSURE ON HIM THREATING TO TAKE FEDERAL FUDS FROM HIS STATE. IF HE DOES NOT DROP THIS LAW. PUBLIC ENEMY SAID IT BEST FIGHT THE POWER. SO RACIAL PROFILEN IS NOT THE SUBJECT.[3] IFR YOU DON'T BELONG HERE IN THE GOOD OLD USA GO BSACK TO WHERE YOU COME FROM IA MEXICO OR KENYA MR .OBAMA.[4]

GG: What color is the sky in your fantasy world?[5]


(at this point, TPW started sending me private messages. That’s when the real fun began).

TPW: MY SKY IS BLUE, SO THAT CRAP OBAMA IS SELLING YOU WAKE UP ALICE YOU ARE STILL IN WONDERLAND.OBAMA FOOLED OVER 4 MILLON NEW VOTERS TO VOTE FOR HIM JUST BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK, NOT KNOWING A DAM THING ABOUT HIS VIEWS.[6] AND AS FAR AS ILLEGALS IN THE COUNTRY FUCK'EM THEY ARE RIDING THE GRAVY TRAIN THAT AMERICANS ARE PAYING INTO IA FREE HEALTH CARE NOT... See More OBAMAS,HOUSING,TAX BREAKS AT THE END OF THE YEAR. HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU GET FED MONEY WHEN YOU PAY NO TAXS? OH BY THE WAY IF I AM BADFOR THIS COUNTRY,THEN 23 STATES IN THE UNION ARE TO.LAW SUITS AGAINST THE FED GOV OVER SHITTY HCR,[7] PLEASE GET A LIFE. NOT SINCE THE CIVIL WAR HAS THEIR BEEN AN OUT CRY AGAINST THE GOV,[8]BUT ONLY 13 STATES VIEWED IT DIFFERENT 46% OF THE UNION AND 56% OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION THINK OBAMA IS A JOKE.[9] OH I SUPPOSE YOU BELIEVE IN PAYING FOR ILLEGAL BIRTHS IN THE U.S.A. SO MRS. HERNANDEZ,CHOW,GRENDISKY AND SO LU CHE CAN BECOME AMERICANS.[10] YOU BLOW YOU TAX DOLLARS ON WASTED CRAP NOT MINE.

GG: i'm a member of the reality based community that believes in facts, not the hypocritical fairy tales peddled by dim-witted right wing entertainers.

it's never too late to join. if you do, i would be glad to have grown-up conversations about our political and ideological differences. until then, don't clog up my inbox with this silly, typo-ridden bullshit.


TPW: YOU DEMOCRATIC FOOLS[11] BY INTO GARBAGE,ALL QUOTES I ADD ARE FACTS FOX NEWS,CNN,TIME MAG,MSNBC ETC.... INTERNET SOURCES.[12] DO THE MATH 23 STAES OUT OF 50 STATES I WOULD SAY 46% IS A ROUND ABOUT FIGURE. OH I FORGOT THE 3.5 TRILLON DEBT THE IMPOSTER HAS AMERICA IN. LET'S NOT BLAME BUSH THAT IS THE CARD DEMS LIKE TO USE. BUSH WAS IN THE HOLE ROUND ABOUT FIG 1.3-1.6 TRILLON DOLLARS HE ADDED THAT IN EIGHT YEARS OBAMA HAS BEEN IN OFFICE 15 MONTHS AND ADDED 2 TRILLON TO THE DEBT GET REAL. ALSO WHY IS HE LEANING TOWARDS THE PALISTENIANS IN ISREALS COUNTRY. HELLO IT'S ISREALS COUNTRY BUILD WHERE YOU WANNA BUILD.[13] HE IS PISSING OFF OUR ONLY TRUE ALLIA BRITIAN,AND THE REST ARE COAT TAIL RIDERS. SO WHEN YOU WANT TO TALK GOV ISSUES COME WITH SOME REAL FACTS NOT JUST WORDS BLURTING OUT DEMOCRATIC GARBAGE. I FEAR NOT NOVEMBER ELECTIONS ARE NEAR REPUBLICANS WELL TAKE BACK THE HOUSE, AND OBAMA WELL FELL THE HEAT.[14]

GG: sad. i feel sorry for you.[15]

TPW: WORDS OF WISDOM FROM A DEMOCRATE. LOL LOL YOU NEED TO FEEL SORRY FOR OUR COUNTRY,WE ARE ON THE BRINK OF DESTRUCTION FROM WITH IN, AND PEOPLE ARE BLIND OR JUST DONT CARE. MYSELF ALONG WITH OVER HALF THE NATION WILL NOT PUT UP WITH THE SHIFTY EYED FORKED TOUNGE[16] GOVERNMENT IN PLACE IN D.C. CHANGE IS A COMING, I HOPE YOU TAKE OFF THE BLINDERS, AND LOOK AROUND AND SEE WHAT THE REST OF THE COUNTRY SEES GOOD LUCK. P.S. NO NEED TO FEEL SORRY OR SAD ME AND MINE ARE JUST FINE. I AM WELL EDUCATED BS IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE @ AS IN PSYCOLOGY. SPELLING IS NOT MY BEST WORK[17] BUT MY FINDINGS ARE WELL STATED AND BACKED UP.[18]


TPW: P.S. RACE IS OUT OF THE ? FOR I HAVE A BEAUTIFUL AFRO-AMERICANWIFE,AND LOVEN IT.[19] P.S SHE THINKS THE SAME ALONG WITH MANNNNNNNY[20] BLACKS I KNOW.

GG: huh? when did i mention race? you sound a bit defensive, friend. anybody who feels the need to trot out a black wife (or a black tea party member) to defend themselves from racism might be a tad insecure. overcompensating for something?

ever hear of the phrase "thou doth protest too much?"[21]


TPW: DON'T HAVE TO OVERCOMPENSAT FOR ANYTHING,JUST POINTING OUT THE FACT THAT PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT OBAMA @ HIS CRAZY ETICS LIKIE TO PLAY THE RACE CARD[22] WHEN SOMEONE FINDS MANY FAULTS IN HIS ABULITY TO RUN THE FREE WORLD. WAKE UP BRO THE WOOL HAS FALLEN OFF HIS BACK AND THE WOLF IS OUT IN THE OPEN,HE IS SO BOLD WITH HIS CROOKEDNESS.

----------------------


Notes:

[1] I know, I know. It’s cheap to make fun of folks’ spelling and grammar mistakes, but damn. And this is the kind of asshole who will make a stink about “Mexican’ts” needing to learn English.

[2] Note: When Republicans win elections, conservatives trumpet the sanctity of the electoral process and the mandate it confers on the victors; when Democrats win, their governance is illegitimate and their powers are “ill gotten.”

[3] I like how he thinks that referencing a black rap group absolves him from the charge that he’s supporting racial profiling. This tokenism will be a recurring theme.

[4] I didn’t even know that people still said “The Good Old USA” without a trace of irony. Also, I like how he thinks he can tell who “belong[s]” in the country. Stay tuned, it gets better.

[5] I thought it’d keep it simple and symbolic. If I’d decided to highlight even a fraction of the inaccuracies here, my response would have been 3 pages long. Plus, these types do not respond to facts anyway.

[6] This is my favorite part. Obama “fooled” 4 million people into voting for him? Based strictly on his blackness? The depth of right-wing denial is staggering. These people simply refuse to admit that their country rejected a “war hero” and a “real American” in favor of a black, supposedly anti-American, multicultural, egghead. By the way, according to this guy, black people and liberals are the ones who love to “play the race card.” You know it’s coming.

[7] So, let me get this straight—the actions of elected federal government officials are illegitimate, but the actions of elected state government officials represent the will of the people? Got it. Keep this in mind.

[8] Now he’s comparing the right wing vitriol toward Obama to the Confederate rebellion against the Union. That’s right the Confederacy—the most extreme version of institutionalized White supremacy this country has ever seen. And yet these morons want to bristle at the charges of anti-black animus.

[9] Here he’s invoking public opinion polls about Obama’s declining popularity. I suppose I could inform him that the same polls show that congressional Republicans are far less popular than Obama, but what would be the point?

[10] The ignorance of these people is baffling.He thinks he can identify non-Americans by their “foreign-sounding” names. I wonder what he thinks of Bush administration criminals John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales? I mean, what would he think of them if he knew who they were?

[11] He assumes that all critics of Tea Party lunacy must be partisan Democrats. I’ve said it a million times before: binary thinking is the mark of a simple mind.

[12] Isn’t this the “liberal media?” And “internet sources” is hilarious—it’s like someone writing “most conservatives are sexual deviants (source: books).”

[13] If there’s anyone I trust on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s this guy (and maybe Joe the Plumber).

[14] Remember Obama’s “ill gotten powers” and all the railing against the federal government? Of course he’s prepared to toss all that aside when Republicans regain control of congress.

[15] Really, what else could I say at this point?

[16] Lizard people reference?

[17] At least he realizes it.

[18] This statement captures our modern, fact-averse culture in a nutshell. One of the best examples of truthiness I’ve seen in quite a while.

[19] A sure sign you don’t know any black people: you use the term “Afro-American.” Wow. The dating market for black women must be even worse than CNN says it is. What kind of black woman would be with this goon? I hope that he’s just lying.

[20] Take one wild guess as to what the extra “N”s stand for.

[21] I’m pretty sure he’d never heard this phrase before now.

[22] There it is!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Funny: Notes on the Barack Obama Trial in Harlem, the Public Sphere, and Baboons Jumping on Trampolines



This is what a truly dynamic public sphere ought to be--folks fighting it out on the streets over important issues of public policy.

With the spirit of a a baboon jumping on a trampoline, the erstwhile Pastor Manning had promised to bring 30,000 people to Columbia University for the sedition and treason "trial" of Barack Obama. As detailed by Salon's great coverage of the event (be sure to check out the indictments against Obama and Manning's creative jury selection process), sadly it seems, maybe 80 or so "patriots" showed up for the event.

If Pastor Manning's conspiracy theory is any indication, the trial must have been great theater:



Say it one time with me folks, Boom Shakalaka! ATLAH! Why? Because that is what God says! Or at least that is what Pastor Manning says God says.

**Insert random moment of self-approval as that last sentence was like wiping my behind with silk.**

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Resolved: Michael Steele has been Voted Out of the Tribe of Respectable Negroes


It has been decided. For his pernicious, foul, and repeated betrayals of all that Black respectability entails, Michael Steele, cowardly, head slave catcher of the GOP, has been voted out of the tribe. Let his name never be spoken again. All mentions of him shall be stricken from our records.

Always be vigilante and mindful of the traitors in our ranks. Remember, when you hear the call of battle to answer it, for when these traitors raise their heads they must be smote.

Kaplah!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Help Me Understand? Ethnic Studies Ban in Arizona Debated by Michael Dyson and Tom Horne



I am at a loss. This one is yours.

Please help me understand this lunacy, stupidity, and screed against critical thinking as offered by white racial reactionaries in Arizona. And Lord why do these knuckleheads keep talking about Dr. King, a man they would hate if they truly understood the breadth and genius of his radically humanistic philosophy?

Are these Right Wing, Conservative Tea Bagger, Xenophobic, Vox Populi types:

A) Dumb

B) Stupid

C) Bigoted

D) All of the Above

E) Something else

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I Convene a War Council: Michael Steele Defames Judge Thurgood Marshall and Should Thus be Expelled from the Tribe of Black Folk



I have not called a war council in many moons. As a tribe expands, a community needs to expose the newest members to some of its most earnest traditions. In doing so, one must always remember that a slavish devotion to tradition can leave a people obsolete, hamstrung, and weakened. But, tradition can also rejuvenate, sustain, and empower us. It is in the spirit of the latter that we return to the wellspring which nurtures the tribe that is We Are Respectable Negroes.

****

Supreme Court battles are spectacles that are less about the qualifications of a given nominee than they are opportunities for the Republicans and Democrats to speak to their constituents as they rally around a given set of talking points. For the out party, the Supreme Court nomination process is a chance to rally their base and remain relevant. During these times, important signals are sent to the party faithful regarding what it means to be an ideologically "correct" Republican or Democrat. In keeping with this strategy, Michael Steele, Chairman of the GOP sent a clear signal to his base as he defiled the memory of Judge Thurgood Marshall--one of America's greatest heroes. To point: In the following press release, Michael Steele in an appeal to the strict constructionist, Constitutional fetishists that are the bleeding heart of his party stated that:

“Over the past year, the American people have been witness to President Obama’s massive expansion of the federal government into our daily lives. To assure the American people, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, will need to demonstrate that she is committed to upholding the vision of our Founding Fathers, who wrote a Constitution meant to limit the power of government, not expand it. The President has stated repeatedly that he wants a justice who will understand the effects of decisions on the lives of everyday Americans. But what Americans want is a justice who will stay true to the Constitution and defend the rights of all Americans, adhering to the rule of law instead of legislating from the bench. Given Kagan’s opposition to allowing military recruiters access to her law school’s campus, her endorsement of the liberal agenda and her support for statements suggesting that the Constitution “as originally drafted and conceived, was ‘defective,’” you can expect Senate Republicans to respectfully raise serious and tough questions to ensure the American people can thoroughly and thoughtfully examine Kagan’s qualifications and legal philosophy before she is confirmed to a lifetime appointment.”

Yes Mr. Steele, a Constitution which enshrined white supremacy as the rule of the land, deemed black Americans 3/5th's of a person, and restricted women and property-less white men from voting was in fact defective.

And yes Mr. Steele, the bolded words are those of Judge Thurgood Marshall.

Random factoid: did you know that in the late 18th century that only about one-fourth of Americans were eligible to vote? So much for democracy, no?

The irony of Mr. Steele's comments are not lost, as America's first Black Supreme Court Justice, and litigator for the NAACP in a series of cases leading to the monumental Brown vs. Board decision, struggled to make the freedoms and opportunities enjoyed by the chair of the GOP a reality. Despite Steele's questionable loyalty to the tribe that is Black America, and his earnest boot licking for the tea baggers and his White Republican Masters, men like Thurgood Marshall are the proverbial fathers of 21st century Black America. He, like Brother Malcolm and Brother Martin, is our father, brother, cousin, mentor, and sage. A giant of a man, we are forever in Judge Marshall's debt. Lest we forget, without Thurgood Marshall, there would be no President Obama.



I have not argued for the discommendation of a Negro in some time. Mr. Steele's comments (as well as the sum total of his behavior during his tenure as head of the Republican Party) have forced my hand. In keeping with our traditions:

Because of his despicable actions in defaming Judge Thurgood Marshall, I hereby, according to the by-laws of the respectable negro council, submit Michael Steele for excommunication from the tribe of honorable negroes.

Per the following designated categories, Michael Steele through his actions has shed the last remnants of personal honor and therefore must suffer discommendation because of the following indicated offense(s):

___ Driving Miss Daisy

X Bagger Vancing

X Clarence Thomas Lap Dogging

___ O.J.'ing

X Blatant Victomology a.k.a. the Jesse Jackson Offense

X Black Lap Dogging before a Conservative Audience

X Consistent and Chronic Lack of Race Pride

X Cooning and Lawn Jockeying a.k.a the Crime of Committing the Flava Flav

As a senior member of the We Are Respectable Negroes leadership council, I need the agreement of one other founding member, and the votes of 5 other members of the respectable negro tribe (or alternatively, 4 lifetime members and one honorable white ally) to complete Michael Steele's expulsion. If I have indicated the incorrect offense, or if Michael Steele should suffer discommendation because he has instead violated some other unstated and auxiliary regulation not listed above, please indicate this discrepancy according to our established rules and procedures.

Respectfully submitted,

Chauncey DeVega

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White Privilege Boot Camp Courtesy of the Black Israelites



Wham. Boom. Pow. Damn!



I love street theater. I especially love agitprop disguised as teaching and knowledge. I have been thinking a great deal about our conversation on white privilege and my using Paul Mooney and David Chappelle as a lens for discussing race in America. In reflecting on my experiences in the classroom, I started thinking about how some students--white and black--found my approach too serious, or that I should let them express their feelings more. As I said earlier, we got's serious work to do, and I am no one's therapist.

In a quite timely, and unexpectedly coincidental fashion, a former student of mine emailed me. She is taking a course on Race and Sociology at an institution with which I was formerly affiliated. While there I had a reputation as the "mean," "tough," black, "race obsessed" professor. That may be true--but folks went to school when they were in my seminars. Trust me. Ironically, I was feared while there, but now fondly remembered by some.

My former student proceeded to explain how her class is all Oprah Winfreyesque, and the professor is more interested in discussing "feelings" and "guilt" than in critical discourse. Apparently, there is a cadre of my former padawans in the class and the feeling seems to be a shared one.

In trying to explain the logic underlying her new teacher's pedagogical approach I pointed out two things. One, race is certainly part of this (as said instructor is a White teacher at a predominantly White institution, so she is sympathetic to the "boo hoo, I feel so guilty" deflection and"I don't know what to do, yet I know I won't give up any wealth or privilege" that some white folk play when their Whiteness is put on blast). And gender may be a component too, as the professor is female. Yes, I do think there is something to the particular intersections of whiteness, gender, and feminism that color how white women teach and approach their scholarship on race. Just as my identity as a black man colors my work, gender and race have a profound influence on how white women navigate these issues as well.

Ultimately, I told my former student that in my best paraphrasing of Jesse the Body Ventura in the movie Predator, that "I ain't got time to bleed."

Why? White teachers and professors have in general not shown much compassion, coddling, and attention to the feelings of people of color in the classroom (the "please random coloured person speak for your race" moment that many of us have witnessed in the hollowed halls of academia for example). Frankly, I am not going to extend white students a courtesy that I/we/you have not been afforded because to do so reinforces the white privilege that is the rotten heart of Whiteness in this country.

Funny, if some of my former students thought I was hard, God knows what said folk would have done if a brother from the Black Israelites walked into the room. And once more to privilege, the Black Israelites may rule that corner and have the ability to make naive white college students who are drunk on the possibilities of post-racial radical humanism as they hook up with cute racially ambiguous boys after a game of beer pong cry, but they ain't got no real juice.

Am I dark and twisted as I laugh at the predictable outcome of Black rage, white fear, white denial, and the inevitable power of white women's tears in this video? Well actually they were rendered ineffective by said brother's verbal Kryptonite. Being a bit more provocative: Is there anything that he said regarding whiteness as property, power, and privilege in the U.S. that was (generally) untrue?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Right Wing Epistemic Closure, Zombie Tea Party George Washington, and Slavery in America



"We needed workers and they needed a place to live."

Wow.

So, we reanimate George Washington, ask him what he would change in hindsight, and the answer said Tea Party costume ball attendee offers is some vague response about telecommunications. No, he doesn't mention the genocide of Native Americans, the second class citizenship of women, ending slavery, or expanding the franchise to property-less white men. Nope. He mentions the Internet. Our zombie George Washington could have massaged any of these answers with a bit of Realpolitik. Instead, he showed us who the Tea Party Fox News crowd has always been--a myopic group, robbed of moral and political vision, wrapped in the swaddling clothes of their own victimology laced patriotism. A state of affairs that would be funny if it were not so sad.

As we have seen during these last months, the Tea Party movement embodies the worst type of American exceptionalism mixed with the most willful of self-delusion. We are a shining city on the hill. The greatest nation to ever exist. We are a country born of providence, divine will, and immaculate conception. In one fell swoop our zombie George Washington demonstrated what is so wrong with the American polity...and our educational system.

It is difficult if not impossible to engage in a substantive discussion of the issues with the nouveau Right-wing Populists because their grasp of the past is so flimsy. In turn, their understanding of the present is flawed. When these Tea Bag brigands are exposed to new information they reject it in order to resolve what would alternatively be a crippling state of semi-permanent cognitive dissonance.

We do not necessarily need the rich discourse surrounding epistemic closure and Conservatives (meaning they are simply talking too each other in a closed loop) that has arisen these last few weeks to explain the Tea Party phenomenon and the intellectual crisis on the Right--a crisis that is perfectly embodied by the rise of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin as the de facto leaders of the Republican Party. No, we can simply point the camera and microphone at the Tea Party movement and their leadership. There, in the starkest of terms, we see the patrimony, spawn, and parenthood of epistemic closure and contemporary American Conservatism.

The masses are once again proven to be asses. And ironically, zombie George Washington has proven the genius of the framers in their creating a representative government designed to circumvent the passions of the mob.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Afternoon Distraction: The Stono Rebellion...Reenacted with Legos



I have to admire this Lego ingeniousness. It reminds me of the Avant-garde style of art known as infantilism, where through a child-like depiction of reality its darkest truths are revealed. Here I am happy to see a (presumably) young respectable negro practicing his craft (he sounds a bit like me at that age, and we have a similar talent for the dramatic).

Also quite telling is how the White slave owner sounds like Darth Vader. I must ask: What does this semiotic code tell us about the relationship between the shadow figure, evil, Jungian psychoanalytic frameworks, race, and our collective political unconscious?



Random embarrassing ghetto nerd story: in the 4th grade I had in my possession a GI JOE novella/audio book. This was great stuff. On one side there was a full featured story with sound effects. The flip side was blank so that enterprising young JOE's could record their own story. Of course I recorded my own version of this adventure including original dialogue and homemade sound effects. Inevitably, I loaned said audiobook to a friend--with the cassette. Little did I know that I would come to school the next day and my recording would be blaring throughout homeroom. My soul died a little bit that Friday. One more story for my inevitable autobiography (random self-aggrandizing and pandering moment: if there are any publishers looking for a pitch please contact a brother).

Both because it is a powerful story that is little discussed--and I am always so surprised when students (black, white and brown) ask if we resisted our inhuman bondage--here is a short clip on the legendary Stono Rebellion.

Strength and honor:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

And Now We Can Exhale: White Conservatives Relieved that the Times Square Bomber is a "Pakistani"



The boo hoo white conservative victimology parade continues...

Black and brown folks share a common experience--the "please God don't let that criminal/thief/murderer/terrorist be one of us" moment when breaking news appears on the television. Why? Because racial minorities in America are not allowed the luxury of being individuals, and thus, the behavior of one reflects on all.

Now it seems that Jonah Goldberg and other Conservatives can share our pain in the aftermath of the attempted Times Square bombing. Initially, a white man was the suspect, quite likely (a reasonable claim given the near seditious, gun toting histrionics of the Fox News crowd) connected to the militia/tea bagger wing of the Republican Party. Now, a Pakistani American is in custody. Seemingly vindicated for the moment, the tea bag brigands, their Right wing bedfellows in the media, and Vox populi enablers can exhale.

I do wonder if this will be a transformative moment where Goldberg and his kin will now empathize with folks of color who intimately know what it is like to be immediately suspect for committing any crime, in any locale, at any time?

Who knows, perhaps the Right will see the injustice of the Arizona anti-immigration bill and its invitation to harass those who "look like" illegal immigrants? Ultimately, will this moment of white male Conservative anxiety (where they held their breath praying that the Times Square bomber was not one of their own) lead to a sense of what Lani Guiner calls political race--an alliance across differences of race to work towards common political interests and the common good?

Probably not. But a brother can dream, can't he?

Courtesy of the National Review:

Their Terrorism Problem and Ours

When the Times Square story first broke, there was a part of me that said, “Man, I hope it’s not some white militia nutjob.” When I saw the news this morning that it was a Pakistani, the same small part of me was relieved. I don’t want to speak for many conservatives on this, but I know I’m speaking for more than just myself.

And I will simply assert that I believe lots of liberals had something very close to the opposite series of reactions (here’s one small example of what I’m talking about). If this had been some Tim McVeigh type, Frank Rich would know exactly what he was going to write for his Sunday column, and he would be excited about writing it. I don’t want to say he’d be happy about it (and he certainly wouldn’t have been happy about the murder victims if the bomb had gone off). But he would certainly be smug and righteous and full of a certain emotion that looks a lot like the glee you feel when you get to say “I told you so.”

Instead, that state of mind no doubt describes quite a few conservatives this morning.

Now, which side is “worse” in their schadenfreude or I-told-you-so’s doesn’t really interest me right now. But even if both sides were equally guilty of the tendency, it hardly means that both sides have morally equivalent positions.

A lot of liberals seem very keen to minimize or dismiss the reality of Islamic terrorism while working devilishly hard to create a false reality that the real threat is from American citizens American “rightwingers.” [See update II below. — JG]

And I’m not just talking about bloggers and pundits. This has been the project of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano for quite some time. As has been discussed around here at great length, she has repeatedly discounted or downgraded Islamic terrorist attacks as everything from mere “man-caused disasters” to “isolated incidents,” even as her agency has eagerly hyped the threat from American veterans and militias. Obama himself has certainly aided in these attempts to spin away Islamic terrorism as a law-enforcement issue, while he and his subalterns — including Bill Clinton — play this subtle game of imputing that conservatives are, at minimum, providing rhetorical aid and comfort to domestic terrorists.

Are some conservatives sometimes too eager to look for an Islamic terrorist angle? Sure. Does this cause some on the right to paint with too broad a brush about Islam or to leap to conclusions about future threats? Arguably so. But that tendency is backed up by some massive empirical justification: hundreds of terrorist attacks aimed at America and her allies all over the world by known terrorist organizations that loudly proclaim their views and intentions to wage jihad on America.

Now consider Michael Bloomberg. He glibly announces on the CBS evening news that, if forced to bet on who had left the bomb in Time Square, he’d bet on the terrorist being “homegrown, or maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda that doesn’t like the health-care bill or something.” Homegrown, mentally deranged, doesn’t like the health-care bill: These are the three best guesses that the mayor who works a few minutes from ground zero could come up with. To which I say, stick it up your memory hole, Mayor.

This liberal tendency is not just offensive because it assumes that American citizens — including vets — are somehow an underappreciated terrorist threat, though that is plenty awful in and of itself.

It is also disgustingly undemocratic. Why? Because so many of these people, starting with Obama himself but including former presidents Clinton and Carter, the Democratic Party, the editorial pages of the New York Times, and much of the rest of the liberal-dominated media, use this talk about the “rhetorical climate” on the right as a means to bully it into silence. That’s what Obama did in his recent commencement address, and that’s what hundreds of commentators and bloggers have been doing in response to the tea parties.

They’re saying, “You people need to shut up because you’re aiding and abetting terrorists.” They’re also trying to say to independents, “If you think the right-wingers are persuasive, you need to think again. They’re all just mouthpieces and stalking horses for the homegrown terrorists and the mentally deranged.”

And, last, it’s also dangerous. Not because it will breed frustration and anger among Americans who feel unfairly demonized for simply voicing their objections (though if liberals really believe the nonsense they spew about conservatives, they might ponder that). No, it’s dangerous because it causes the country to look for terrorists where they aren’t while telling them not to look for them where they are.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Pedagogical Question: Am I Evil Because I Showed Paul Mooney and Dave Chappelle in My Class On Whiteness?



Random pedagogical question for you folks out there who are teachers, or have ever been college students...

In my seminars I like to use real examples to demonstrate such abstractions as "privilege" and the idea that race is a "social construct." Specifically, I like to use humor because nothing cuts so deep--especially for the White students in my class--as seeing a person of color reverse the gaze and deconstruct their follies. It really is Earth shattering for some that the little man behind the stove (to borrow from Ellison) knows more about them, than they often know about themselves.

I am also a bit of a jerk who pulls no punches in the classroom. I don't use the "n-word," I say nigger. I don't poo poo white guilt and hold a we are the world Oprah session confessional where people can talk about their "feelings." No, I talk about White supremacy and how there is a chain of evidence from the past to the present, clear winners and losers, beneficiaries, victims, and deniers. I am both loved and hated...at least according to my evaluations.

So my question: Am I so wrong to have shown Paul Mooney talking about the ways of White folk? Am I doubly wrong to have been smiling to myself as some of the White students, the more Conservative men in particular, looked on the verge of tears while their Black, Latino, and Asian students had a good laugh?

Second question, is there a better example of the true lie that is race than Chappelle's Clayton Bigsby sketch?



And yes, Eddie Murphy's "White People" routine from SNL is a close second:

Piss Poor Punditry: The New York Times' David Brooks, The Limits of Policy, and the Problem of "Bad Culture"

Again, huge policy differences. Not huge outcome differences.
This is not to say that policy choices are meaningless. But we should be realistic about them. The influence of politics and policy is usually swamped by the influence of culture, ethnicity, psychology and a dozen other factors.

Punditry must be hard work.

I don't live under the pressure of having to write a weekly newspaper column. It must be doubly difficult when your platform is contained within the esteemed pages of The New York Times. That having been noted as a qualifier: David Brooks' May 3rd piece, The Limits of Policy was for lack of a better word, just really stupid.

Brooks begins his spiral into fallacy land by arguing that government policy has little to do with the life outcomes of different ethnic groups. Moreover, there he alludes to the life chances of Swedes in Europe in the early 20th century as compared to those in the U.S. in order to deduce a claim about the relative advantages or disadvantages of socialized medicine. No, I am not kidding. This slippery foundation--like a drunk trying to ice skate on one foot--becomes even more untenable as Brooks spins a tale of race, health disparities, and social capital.

The big question Brooks is trying to engage is: What are the limits of national policy in terms of effecting the life chances of different groups of citizens? A fair question. However, playing not so quite in the shadows of his question, is a supposition that different groups of people, ethnic groups in this case, have different "characters." Problematically, this is a line of reasoning straight out of the racialist political ideologies of the late 19th century and such tracts as The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant which detailed the paranoia of America's "old stock" in the face of increasing waves of immigrants from the "lower races" and not yet fully "white" stock of Eastern and Southern Europe.

As is common to contemporary discussions of race and social mobility, the model minority myth makes an obligatory appearance in Brooks' account. He asks: Why do Asian-Americans do so well in all regions of the country? What is their secret? By extension, why do Blacks--and Native Americans--do so poorly. Of course, for Brooks this has nothing to do with government policy. Rather, it is all a function of social capital and a crude reading of the theories offered by Robert Putnam in the much cited Bowling Alone.

These comparisons are (and have always been) specious--the model minority myth is just that, a fable that conflates a whole group of people into one category. For example, is Brooks talking about the Hmong, Cambodians, Vietnamese, or Laotians--groups which generally do not fit that neat narrative? Or is Brooks talking about Japanese and Koreans, many of whom immigrated here as professionals with a significant amount of resources, both real and intangible, already in hand?

Ultimately, in his lamenting that government can do so little to impact life opportunities in the face of such primordial forces as ethnicity and social capital (what is really Brooks' way of saying "good" and "bad" culture) he ignores the role that government policy has played in creating systems of wealth, privilege, advantage and disadvantage.

For example, government policy both directly and indirectly created the urban ghettos in America's central cities and a two tiered system of citizenship until it was brought down by The Black Freedom Struggle in the 1960s. By extension, government support for affirmative action and a robust effort to end discrimination in federal hiring practices helped to create the Black middle and professional classes. Conversely, government programs such as the GI Bill and FHA loan programs created suburbia, as well as the wealth and prosperity enjoyed by the white middle classes of the post World War 2 period--opportunities that were by design and in practice all but closed to people of color. And most certainly, government policy created the alienation and poverty that are as common to the Native American reservations of the Southwest as they are to the mining towns of Appalachia.

In total, The Limits of Policy exposes one of the central contradictions of neo-liberal, center-Right, Conservative politics in this country. When the government policy works in your favor it is invisible, and one's successes are all one's own, the result of hard work, individualism, and "good culture." You can nurse at the succor provided by the Horatio Alger myth of rugged individualism. When government policy fails, it is because "those people" have "bad culture," somehow tied to race and blood, and that the solution is less government and not more. Your failings are all your own.

In this regard, the final paragraph of Mr. Brooks' piece is quite telling: "Finally, we should all probably calm down about politics. Most of the proposals we argue about so ferociously will have only marginal effects on how we live, especially compared with the ethnic, regional and social differences that we so studiously ignore."

Sorry Mr. Brooks. Race is how class is lived. And yes, policy has a great deal to do with that fact.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Black Superpublic Fails Again: Behold the "D*ck Slang" Video in All of its Horror



Once more, this is how we lost to the White man.
Moreover, in the Age of Obama can't we do better?

Here, we witness a failing of the intimacy and immediacy of technology melded with the stupidity of the lumpen proletariat ign't knuckdragging hoodrat crowd. The first time I reflected on this problem, I linked the failing of the Black family and fatherless boys performing a la Beyonce to the monumental Moynihan Report. After watching the above video, the immortal words of Stuart Hall in his seminal, What is this Black in Black Popular Culture? were echoing in my ear.

For students of Black popular culture this essay is a requirement. For others trying to make sense of young men performing their version of black masculinity by dancing shirtless while practicing pseudo-frontage through their sagging athletic wear, Hall's piece is both illuminating and invaluable.

Some choice excerpts from Hall's What is this Black in Black Popular Culture?:

Black popular culture, like all popular cultures in the modern world, is bound to be contradictory, and this is not because we haven't fought the cultural battle well enough. By definition, black popular culture is a contradictory space. It is a site of strategic contestation. But it can never be simplified or explained in terms of the simple binary oppositions that are still habitually used to map it out: high and low; resistance versus incorporation; authentic versus unauthentic; experiential versus formal; opposition versus homogenization. There are always positions to be won in popular culture, but no struggle can capture popular culture itself for our side or theirs. Why is that so? What consequences does this have for strategies of intervention in cultural politics? How does it shift the basis for black cultural criticism?

However deformed, incorporated, and unauthentic are the forms in which black people and black communities and traditions appear and are represented in popular culture, we continue to see, in the figures and the repertoires on which popular culture draws, the experiences that stand behind them. In its expressivity, its musicality, its orality, in its rich, deep, and varied attention to speech, in its inflections toward the vernacular and the local, in its rich production of counternarratives, and above all, in its metaphorical use of the musical vocabulary, black popular culture has enabled the surfacing, inside the mixed and contradictory modes even of some mainstream popular culture, of elements of a discourse that is different -- other forms of life, other traditions of representation...

There are deep questions here of cultural transmission and inheritance, and of the complex relations between African origins and the irreversible scatterings of the diaspora, questions I cannot go into. But I do believe that these repertoires of black popular culture, which, since we were excluded from the cultural mainstream, were often the only performative spaces we had left, were overdetermined from at least two directions: they were partly determined from their inheritances; but they were also critically determined by the diasporic conditions in which the connections were forged. Selective appropriation, incorporation, and rearticulation of European ideologies, cultures, and institutions, alongside an African heritage -- this is Cornel West again -- led to linguistic innovations in rhetorical stylization of the body, forms of occupying an alien social space, heightened expressions, hairstyles, ways of walking, standing, and talking, and a means of constituting and sustaining camaraderie and community.

The point of underlying overdetermination -- black cultural repertoires constituted from two directions at once -- is perhaps more subversive than you think. It is to insist that in black popular culture, strictly speaking, ethnographically speaking, there are no pure forms at all. Always these forms are the product of partial synchronization, of engagement across cultural boundaries, of the confluence of more than one cultural tradition, of the negotiations of dominant and subordinate positions, of the subterranean strategies of recoding and transcoding, of critical signification, of signifying. Always these forms are impure, to some degree hybridized from a vernacular base.



Monday, May 3, 2010

Let's Play a Game with Chauncey DeVega's 6th Grade Class Photo


I have a strong dislike for social media such as Facebook. They take away our relative anonymity, break down the wall between private and public, and hassle us with false notions of friendship (frankly, I am tired of folks who I have not talked to in 20 years asking me to "friend" them for the purposes of growing their Farmville estates).

Facebook does have some uses though. For example, letting me be nosy as I follow the triumphs and tragedies of both friend and foe alike. Likewise, Facebook also salvages photos and moments that were best forgotten and lost to the memory well (a comic book reference for my ghetto nerd compadres). So let's play a game. I just came upon my 6th grade class photo from elementary school. I will tell you some of the fates of those pictured, and you in turn tell me who said person(s) are. Hopefully, this will be a fun beginning of the week diversion.

1. Who was the coolest kid in class, not too long after this picture that would be rocking the Mohawk by Middle School, who disappeared into legend following High School, and was generally far smarter at that age than he had any right to be?

2. Who is our guest blogger Bill the Lizard?

3. Which of these girls were best of friends and then became hated rivals in High School following a horrible car accident in which several of their friends were killed?

4. Bonus points. I had a crush (at different times) on either of them, but had a shot at only one of them...said girl would later make a pass at me in High School, and lacking any game at all--she even told me she "put out" and "why don't boys like her?" as she flirted with me--I didn't pick up on the signals. Random story: I once got heat stroke following her home (my boy had a crush on said girl's friend and demanded I come along) in 100 degree heat while wearing my desert camo jacket, Bermuda shorts, carrying a really heavy backpack and lugging my saxophone.

5. Who is now the prettiest woman of any of the girls pictured, the "ugly duckling" that became a goddess of a woman whose bathwater I would drink at this very moment if she blessed me with the chance? And yes, I mean that.

6. Who has worked on several prominent daytime soaps as a male lead?

7. Who were the 2 biggest weed heads? One of which would go AWOL from the military after talking up joining the service during all of our many years in school together?

8. Who was the "town bicycle?"--I use that phrase because I can't bring myself to call a then sixth grade girl a bit of a whorish coquette.

9. Different girl: Who was my neighbor that I also enjoyed early teen groping sessions with in Middle School? Again, I could have "put it in her" but I didn't want to be a 13 year old dad (and I was afraid to go buy condoms lest someone see me). A hint: said girl was THE ONE who in preeminent Wonder Years style came back to school a grown ass woman following the summer between Middle and Elementary School. And yes, I did hump the bed a la Ghostface style thinking about overly developed womanly parts and curves that I would touch when her mom was not home.

10. Which girl, a bit chubby at the time, did I tease into an eating disorder who then became a model who accosted me years later with a public tirade that my cruelty made her loose weight and she did it all to spite me?

11. The easiest question of them all: Just who is Chauncey DeVega?

Friday, April 30, 2010

When Smart People Say Stupid Things: Stephanie Grace, Harvard Law School, and Why Black People are Genetically Inferior



I will leave this one for you all to discuss.

Apparently, insert gasp and shock, some relatively smart folk (Question: Is being book smart the same as being intelligent?) think that black people are genetically inferior to white people. And guess what? Said person--Miss Stephanie Grace--is at Harvard Law and they communicate said message via a mass email. Like a rock in a pond there are now so many ripples. The Dean gets involved, apologies are issued for hurt feelings, and an obligatory "conversation" about race must ensue.

Maybe I just have tough skin, but when I see these types of stories I do have to shake my head and leave my racism chasing shoes in the closet. Why? Primarily because I am always astounded by how Americans believe themselves to be experts on race by virtue of it being our national obsession. Second, I love it when ostensibly smart people say stupid things and operate outside of their area of expertise. Miss Grace may have conducted some preliminary research on racial attitudes among college students, but that does not make her an expert on biology, genetics, or the science of race--to the degree it is science--more generally. Likewise, I may know a whole lot about one little slice of Black cultural politics, but that does not make me an expert on 18th century slave systems in the Chesapeake Bay area.

First question: When did black folk get so weak and thin skinned? Why doesn't the Harvard Black Law Students Association (assuming they have not) offer up a proper response? One grounded in the decades of research that refutes Miss Grace's assertion? Moreover, that IQ tests themselves do not measure "intelligence" per se, and that Miss Grace was operating from a set of fallacy laden assumptions. To paraphrase one of my favorite bloggers, by pursuing the hurt feelings angle "this is how we lost to the White people."

Second question: What of freedom of speech? Being provocative, isn't the freedom to say what one will, also a license to be stupid? Finally, I am not a fan of apologies. Sometimes folks should stand their ground and own the consequences of their words. Am I unreasonable in that I would have found it refreshing if Stephanie Grace said, "yes, I believe that Black people are genetically prone to be less intelligent than white people. I will own that statement...and the consequences professionally and personally." Am I doubly more unreasonable to have hoped that someone would have then proceeded to open a can of intellectual, empirically driven whoop ass on her metaphorical behind?

Full text of Stephanie Grace's e-mail

An e-mail sent by a Harvard Law student that questioned the intelligence of blacks caused outrage when it was leaked and spread on the Internet this week. Here is the full text of the original e-mail message written by Harvard Law student Stephanie Grace to her two friends, followed by a letter from Harvard Law dean Martha Minow, and Grace's apology.

".. . .. I just hate leaving things where I feel I misstated my position.

I absolutely do not rule out the possibility that African Americans are, on average, genetically predisposed to be less intelligent. I could also obviously be convinced that by controlling for the right variables, we would see that they are, in fact, as intelligent as white people under the same circumstances. The fact is, some things are genetic. African Americans tend to have darker skin. Irish people are more likely to have red hair. (Now on to the more controversial:) Women tend to perform less well in math due at least in part to prenatal levels of testosterone, which also account for variations in mathematics performance within genders. This suggests to me that some part of intelligence is genetic, just like identical twins raised apart tend to have very similar IQs and just like I think my babies will be geniuses and beautiful individuals whether I raise them or give them to an orphanage in Nigeria. I don't think it is that controversial of an opinion to say I think it is at least possible that African Americans are less intelligent on a genetic level, and I didn't mean to shy away from that opinion at dinner.

I also don't think that there are no cultural differences or that cultural differences are not likely the most important sources of disparate test scores (statistically, the measurable ones like income do account for some raw differences). I would just like some scientific data to disprove the genetic position, and it is often hard given difficult to quantify cultural aspects. One example (courtesy of Randall Kennedy) is that some people, based on crime statistics, might think African Americans are genetically more likely to be violent, since income and other statistics cannot close the racial gap. In the slavery era, however, the stereotype was of a docile, childlike, African American, and they were, in fact, responsible for very little violence (which was why the handful of rebellions seriously shook white people up). Obviously group wide rates of violence could not fluctuate so dramatically in ten generations if the cause was genetic, and so although there are no quantifiable data currently available to "explain" away the racial discrepancy in violent crimes, it must be some nongenetic cultural shift. Of course, there are pro-genetic counterarguments, but if we assume we can control for all variables in the given time periods, the form of the argument is compelling.

In conclusion, I think it is bad science to disagree with a conclusion in your heart, and then try (unsuccessfully, so far at least) to find data that will confirm what you want to be true. Everyone wants someone to take 100 white infants and 100 African American ones and raise them in Disney utopia and prove once and for all that we are all equal on every dimension, or at least the really important ones like intelligence. I am merely not 100% convinced that this is the case.

Please don't pull a Larry Summers on me.''

"Dear members of the Harvard Law School community:

I am writing this morning to address an email message in which one of our students suggested that black people are genetically inferior to white people.

This sad and unfortunate incident prompts both reflection and reassertion of important community principles and ideals. We seek to encourage freedom of expression, but freedom of speech should be accompanied by responsibility. This is a community dedicated to intellectual pursuit and social justice. The circulation of one student's comment does not reflect the views of the school or the overwhelming majority of the members of this community.

As news of the email emerged yesterday, I met with leaders of our Black Law Students Association to discuss how to address the hurt that this has brought to this community. For BLSA, repercussions of the email have been compounded by false reports that BLSA made the email public and pressed the student's future employer to rescind a job offer. A troubling event and its reverberations can offer an opportunity to increase awareness, and to foster dialogue and understanding. The BLSA leadership brought this view to our meeting yesterday, and I share their wish to turn this moment into one that helps us make progress in a community dedicated to fairness and justice.

Here at Harvard Law School, we are committed to preventing degradation of any individual or group, including race-based insensitivity or hostility. The particular comment in question unfortunately resonates with old and hurtful misconceptions. As an educational institution, we are especially dedicated to exposing to the light of inquiry false views about individuals or groups.

I am heartened to see the apology written by the student who authored the email, and to see her acknowledgement of the offense and hurt that the comment engendered.

I would like to thank the faculty, administrators, and students who have already undertaken serious efforts to increase our chances for mutual understanding, confrontation of falsehoods, and deliberative engagement with difficult issues, and making this an ever better community.

Sincerely,

Martha Minow"

The text of the apology that Stephanie Grace sent to the leadership of Harvard's Black Law Students Association:

"I am deeply sorry for the pain caused by my email. I never intended to cause any harm, and I am heartbroken and devastated by the harm that has ensued. I would give anything to take it back.

I emphatically do not believe that African Americans are genetically inferior in any way. I understand why my words expressing even a doubt in that regard were and are offensive.

I would be grateful to have an opportunity to share my thoughts and to apologize to you in person.

Even beforehand, I want to extend an apology to you and to anyone else who has been hurt by my actions."

Eurocentrism Reigns Supreme: Arizona Legislature Bans Ethnic Studies Programs

States that the Legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.

Provisions

States that the Legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.

Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:

Promote the overthrow of the United States government.

Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

States that if the SBE determines that a school district or charter school is offering a course that violates this act, the SBE must direct the Superintendent of Public Instruction (Superintendent) to notify the school district or charter school that it is in violation.

The classroom is and has always been a political space.

This is a textbook example of Eurocentrism and Whiteness in action--and the irony here is priceless. Pursuant to this new law, children of color and their parents in Arizona should sue to demand that funding be cut off to most public schools because from American history to English to Science and the Arts, the curriculum as presently taught devalues people of color, encourages White solidarity, is designed to reinforce Whiteness as the "normal" and "preeminent" state of being, and generates resentment on the part of those left out of America's grand narrative.

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Last week Arizona instituted draconian laws that were designed to curb illegal immigration. In an effort to one up themselves, the state legislature has now passed a resolution banning "Ethnic Studies" programs in public schools. Once more, for those of you who are not connecting the dots between white racial resentment and the Tea Party movement; resurgent White Nationalism in the moments since Obama's election; and White anxiety about the "browning of America," here is another data point.

When the tea baggers and the Vox Right Wing Populi harp on about taking "their America back," those dead-enders do in fact want to take America back to the good old days when black and brown folk were silent and obedient--at least as seen by the gaze of the White imagination:



Although this bill is initially limited to public schools, one should make careful note of the language. "Ethnic Studies" is a particular nomenclature that almost universally applies to colleges and universities. On one hand, as someone who loosely works in Ethnic Studies I am emboldened and pleased that the essentially political nature of our work is identified as such by our enemies:




This is validating in a way. However, I am also chilled because this new law signals an increasing escalation in the assault on academic freedom and free thinking in American society. Moreover, these assaults are a further signpost on the road to a corporate, bottom line, lucre and profit oriented approach to higher education that results in lower quality instruction, poorly trained students, and ultimately, a less competitive economy.

There is a frightening coincidence of interests at this moment. The enemies of tenure, those such as David Horowitz and his ilk who rail against "liberal professors," and the minions of folk such as Ward Connerly and others who work lockstep against the "diversity business" are certainly sharpening their knives at the announcement of this new law. How long until they come for private and public universities and colleges?

To what ends will this slippery slope lead? Who will the Know Nothings, and the neo-John Birther tea baggers and their allies come for next?